After the first semester in college, most freshmen look forward to a needed break before heading back to school for the spring term. But Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) Scholar Joel Bervell (Yale’17) ushered in the New Year by delivering stuffed animals to children in the pediatric ward of an Accra hospital and visiting orphanages and schools in his native Ghana. It was all part of "Hugs for Ghana", an organization that Joel co-founded with his sister Rachel, a Harvard University senior.
The pair from Washington State started "Hugs for Ghana" when they were in high school. With a group of volunteers, they implemented a school supply drive to collect basic educational necessities for Ghanaian children. They were able to collect over 6,000 different types of supplies ranging from backpack to pencils and reading books, all of which they personally gave to children at two different schools in Ghana. The two older siblings are away at college so it has been up to younger brother Michael, a high school junior, to harness the group of volunteers to collect this year's gifts. They were able to accumulate over $20,000 worth of sports’ equipment and stuffed animals for shipment to Ghana.
The Bervell’s arrived in Ghana shortly after Christmas, ushered in the New Year with the children at the Korle-Bu Hospital and then made their way to a rural village, 9 hours away from the capital city, where they delivered toys and equipment to anxious local school children. “The grins that spread across the faces of these children was so rewarding,” said Joel. “I wish I could accurately describe how excited these kids were to have stuffed animals, soccer balls, jerseys, shoes, and other items to finally call their own.”
Joel’s family comes from Ghana. He is on the pre-med track at Yale University with plans to study Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology. He hopes, one day, to become a doctor. “I’m also planning on expanding "Hugs for Ghana" beyond Ghana,” he notes. “We want to spread our program to other countries as well.”
“All of our JRF Scholars perform community service projects,” said Jackie Robinson Foundation President and CEO Della Britton Baeza, “But we are always proud and thrilled to hear about their experiences and the tremendous impact these projects have on developing them as future leaders.”
Visit Joel's site at Hugs for Ghana